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    Unveiling Pay Transparency Impact on Pay Disparities: Insights from 500 Interviews

    One of the most stressful parts of a job search is negotiating salary. What is the company’s budget for the role? What is this role actually worth? Hannah Williams, creator of the Salary Transparent Street series, began asking herself these questions back in 2021 as a senior data analyst.
    Finance Expert Hannah Williams and a screenshot of her Salary Database website
    After conducting thorough research on the salaries of employees with similar experience and role in the same area, Williams made a shocking discovery – she was being paid $25,000 less than the average market rate. This revelation prompted her to take a bold step: she quit her job in search of a position that offered fair compensation. This decision proved to be transformative and life-changing for her.
    In my initial interview, the recruiter I spoke with inquired about my salary expectations. I was well aware of my desired range, considering the limited public information I was able to access. However, I had no knowledge of the company’s private budget for the position. It seemed unreasonable to expect the job candidate to guess a fair wage without upfront transparency from the company.
    Transparent piggy bank with money inside
    In that moment, I decided to turn the tables on the recruiter and inquire about their budget for the position, donning a chic and fashion-forward approach. To her commendation, she willingly disclosed the company’s anticipated budget, surpassing my expectations by an impressive $10,000. Ultimately, I embraced the opportunity, yet the impact of the entire encounter lingered within me.
    Williams says this experience ignited a spark to learn more about transparency in the job market. “I realized how pay secrecy significantly contributes to pay gaps that marginalize women, minorities, workers with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community,” she says. “Something has to change. I came up with the idea to ask complete strangers on the street how much they make, and Salary Transparent Street was born.”
    A screenshot of a tech entrepreneur who makes $100k and a teacher who makes 71k in the Salary Transparent Street interviews
    The interview series showcases individuals from diverse backgrounds, shedding light on their professions, income, and opinions on compensation fairness. Williams initially aimed to educate a small audience on market research‘s significance, but the series unexpectedly gained viral popularity. This unexpected success fueled the expansion of her mission to empower workers to understand their market value, negotiate equitable salaries, and advocate for themselves.
    In the comments, individuals are frequently astonished by the salaries disclosed and express that it gives off an impression of being a profession deserving of more.
    A comment that says "71k after tax is manageable but not amazing. Teachers deserve way more and it's a shame that this is high for an elementary school teacher that's the foundation of a child's learning throughout their whole life."
    Commenters also find it eye-opening how salary ranges can change based on location and cost of living.
    A comment that says "For those saying $71k is great compensation, you're right. It is above the national average. But this is also in Chicago, where cost of living is much higher."
    Initially, all of the interviews took place in the Washington D.C. metro area where Williams resides. As the series went viral, commenters began asking for stories and salaries from other cities. “People were saying the D.C. wages didn’t reflect national median salaries which is true,” says Williams. “D.C. has a high cost of living. I wanted to report realistic salaries to a wider audience, so we took Salary Transparent Street to 21 states and Canada!” She notes that diversifying where STS interviews take place shows how location can play a role in earning potential.
    One of the things I’m most proud of is STS has gotten to be part of shifting work culture away from secrecy. Williams, who was invited to testify in support of the Washington D.C. Pay Range Act which prohibits employers from posting a job listing without including salary, shares her thoughts on the importance of transparency in the workplace. Discover how policies like this ensure that when you’re sifting through job postings, you’ll see the offered salary range before even applying.
    Making pay transparency her full-time mission, Williams is set to launch the Salary Database. This online tool will allow users to search job titles, average market rates, and experiential context for accurately comparing salaries.
    An image of the Salary Database, featuring a search bar that allows users to sift through job titles in various locations and see the average salary
    When I began STS in April 2022, I collected anonymous salaries in a publicly accessible document,” Williams recalls. “For the past year, we’ve transitioned this information to an official Salary Database, which is designed to help solve many problems that market research presented before.”
    With Salary Transparent Street at 500 interviews and counting, Williams also says the series has given her a fresh perspective. “The lowest-paid workers are usually the most important to society: teachers, social workers, bus drivers, and healthcare,” she says. “The highest-paid are usually in tech, finance, trades, or are self-employed. And regardless of if you make 200,000 a year or20 an hour, everyone wishes they made more.”
    She notes that job satisfaction goes a long way in determining if someone feels they’re being paid fairly. Some interviewees express loving what they do, despite a lower wage, and find that supplementing income with a side hustle is worth it to stay in a role where they’re happy.
    Williams also emphasizes the significance of networking and considers it as one of the most vital lessons she has learned. She highlights that countless individuals have secured their dream jobs by building strong professional connections. She encourages aspiring professionals to realize the willingness of successful individuals to provide guidance and support when approached. Williams firmly believes that nurturing and expanding one’s network is an invaluable asset for career growth and must be prioritized.
    Outlines of different people
    If you’re shy or introverted, discover chic and fashion-forward ways to network: join virtual events with a friend for support, curate talking points to guide you in advance, or treat a new colleague to coffee or lunch. Networking doesn’t have to be overwhelming or exclusive to extroverts.
    For those who fear they might be making less than they deserve, Williams encourages taking the time to research your market rate. “Once you’ve determined this, you can ask your current job for a raise, or look for a new job that pays fairly.”
    A scale balancing time and money
    Many people I talk to say they know they should negotiate, but they’re too scared a job offer will be taken back or that they’ll leave a bad impression,” says Williams. “But if you don’t ask, you won’t get the salary you want. If you don’t advocate for yourself, companies are capitalizing on it.

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